July 8, 2011

Uncharacteristic Snowpack, Hidden Hazards on Mt. Baker


In light of recent accidents on Mount Baker, the USFS Climbing Rangers would like to take a moment to discuss personal safety and inherent dangers on the mountain.

Mount Baker endured an uncharacteristically long and deep winter with a great amount of late season snow fall. Recent weather patterns have preserved the snowpack well into the summer months and, as a result, campsites, landmarks, and hazards look very different than they normally would at this time of year.

Most campsites are still covered with snow and there are currently no sources of running water on either the north or south side of the mountain. Climbers should be prepared to boil snow for water and they should carry extra fuel for this purpose. Familiar landmarks are likely buried, epecially on the upper mountain, and climbers need to use caution when navigating in poor weather with decreased visibility. Most importantly, there are many hidden hazzards, such as moats, moulins, crevasses, cliffs, and unstable snow, that might not be visible, especially from uphill. Specifically, there is an open waterfall in the snowpack on Rocky Creek at approximately 5200-feet, below the Easton Glacier, that is virutally invisible from above. On the north side of the mountain, there is a hole in the snowpack at approximately 5500-feet west of Hogsback. It has been reported that a glissade track travels directly over this hole and descending climbers should use extreme caution to avoid this hazard.

Mountain toilets have not yet been installed at their normal locations and recreationalists are reminded to use either Blue Bags or Wag Bags to pack out their waste. Both are available at the Sedro Wooley and Glacier Service Centers. As always, be safe and happy climbing!

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